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Walking the Wild Trees Pt. 7: Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods Pk.

Thursday October 13

Curley’s Motel

Crescent City CA

Here’s a photo album of our walk in Fern Canyon.

One of our best days ever. The waiter yesterday at the Japanese restaurant in Arcata mentioned that Fern Canyon was one of the best-kept secrets we had to visit. So we decided to do it this morning, not knowing much about it except that he suggested it, and a quick Google search said it was a location for the second Jurassic Park film.

By this time, we were euphoric as we descended into Fern Canyon.

We began with breakfast at some place not far down the road, the Good Harvest Café, where I had an actual chicken-fried steak and eggs. I have pretty much given up on reminding restaurants that deep-fried steaks aren’t chicken-fried steaks, so this time I just ordered without asking, and was surprised to get the first good chicken-fried steak I’ve had in years. A good omen, perhaps?

It was about a thirty minute drive to Davison Road, which took us on a slow, winding road through a wild redwood forest, much wilder than any we have seen so far. The forest floor was quite irregular, with deep gorges and hills and dales intersecting, the kind of area that Michael Taylor and Steve Sillett had bushwhacked to find the world’s tallest redwoods. Then we dropped down along the coast, paid the seven dollar parking fee and headed down along the coast past Gulf Beach for a few miles before we dead-end at the parking lot. We make the best decision of the day to change into our high-top hiking boots and wool socks.

Then we’re climbing into this dense, humid, wet jungle forest. A couple coming back looked at our boots and said we “should be all right” just before we finally have to cross the stream. It’s not too bad, but we wind up taking the coastal trail instead of the Fern Canyon loop, and we walked more than a mile out of our way before realizing that it was the wrong trail. So we walked back this muddy trail and began climbing awhile along another trail to a point near the top of the canyon in a redwood forest before finally finding the loop trail that dropped us down into the best part of the walk. All told, it probably took us about an hour and a half before we dropped into Fern Canyon proper.

These lush ferns covered the wall for much of Fern Canyon's length.

It was worth the wait and the walk. The next forty minutes we lost all sense of time as we moved along down through the stream, over logs and around fallen trees and debris. It was obvious from the start that there was no real trail. We must have crossed the stream twenty times. At first we tried to find the best place to cross to keep our feet dry. But after awhile, we realized that it really didn’t matter, and soon we just didn’t care, crossing back and forth with reckless abandon.

This became quite intoxicating. I felt like a little kid again, moving through a world that was equal parts Jurassic Park and Tarzan of the Apes. Any minute I expected a velociraptor to come into view. Or a half man/half ape with a chimpanzee at his side.

It was difficult to find a path through at several junctures. At one point, we ran into a fellow in his fifties who was trying to find a way around a particularly dense debris field created when an enormous redwood dropped into the valley. Knowing he was ahead of us working his way through helped a lot. The trip down was as exasperating as it was exhilarating.

Here’s the link to a photo album of our walk in Fern Canyon.

On the way home, I stopped for coffee at a little shop on 101. The woman there, when I told her we were going to Crescent City, said that when she was a child living there, they would go to the “north end of town,” where they would play among tree stumps that were enormous. After we got into town, I drove to the north end before realizing she had been talking about something that happened decades ago and that the directions were far too vague. But worth a try.

Finished off things with dinner at the Chart House, a short drive from Curley’s. It was close to the motel, and as we got out of the car and walked toward the restaurant, it looked like one of the docks in the marina was alive and moving. A close look turned up about thirty or more seals lying on the dock. Taking it over, in point of fact. Probably two or three dozen. They were also on other rocks in the harbor. Grunting, squealing, making noise. Like seals do.

Our dining companions in Crescent City. Click to enlarge and you can see construction in the harbor behind, where they're repairing damage from the Japanese tsunami earlier this year that hit Crescent City.

The seals – there are three species — have become quite an attraction at the Chart House. Noisy, smell and rude they are, but everybody loves them! All the seats with a view of the seals are already taken. Still, dinner was outrageously wonderful. I had fish and chips and a couple bottles of Alaskan Amber, first I’ve had in years. We drove over to get a look at the old lighthouse at the end of the downtown area and drove up the coast a bit, too. After extending our reservation for one more night with an old hippie dressed in black and silver, we fall asleep to a symphony of seals grunting and squealing.

One of the best days we’ve ever spent on the road — or off.

Next: Jedediah Redwoods State Park, Hiouchi

1 comment

1 Angus { 11.07.11 at 9:46 am }

My lovely wife has often said that Fern Canyon is on place that she’d love to return to. Sounds like you and Billie had an amazing trip!

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